Online retail giant Amazon is stopping sellers from sending non-essential items to its UK and US warehouses until 5 April, to make space for vital items needed by its customers during the coronavirus outbreak.

Amazon wrote to its third-party sellers, some of whom use the company’s logistics to store and dispatch their products, to inform them that stocks of medical supplies and certain household items are running low due to increased demand from online shoppers.

The US company is prioritising five categories of goods which it calls essential products, and which shippers can continue to send to its warehouses – these include baby products, health and household; beauty and personal care; groceries; industrial and scientific; and pet supplies.

Amazon said it is prioritising these categories in order to “quickly receive, restock, and ship these products to customers”.

It added: “We understand this is a change for our selling partners and appreciate their understanding as we temporarily prioritise these products for customers.”

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Third-party sellers list their products on the marketplace section of Amazon’s website and generate about half of all sales on the site. Amazon charges fees to sellers which use its fulfilment system, which enables them to store their products in the retailer’s warehouses and use their logistics network for delivery. This option is especially popular with sellers who import goods from overseas manufacturers, and send them directly to an Amazon depot.

Earlier in the outbreak, Amazon suspended accounts of sellers who were attempting to cash in on coronavirus fears by raising the price of items such as face masks and hand sanitiser.

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The Seattle-based chain has also said it will hire 100,000 full- and part-time workers across the US, as it tries to meet growing demand from online shoppers who are staying at home during the outbreak.

The change means that aside from Amazon’s essential products, other items may be more likely to be out of stock in the coming weeks or sellers may have to ship goods directly to consumers.

Royal Mail workers who are members of the Communication Workers Union (CWU) have voted in favour of strike action in an ongoing dispute over job security and employment terms and conditions. A total of 94.5% of members voted for a postal strike, on a turnout of 63.4%.

However, the union said it would set aside its dispute with the company, provided it abandons planned changes, so that workers can provide “an additional emergency service” during the Covid-19 pandemic. The CWU said postal workers could play a role “delivering medical aid, checking on the elderly and vulnerable, delivering local-to-local services and supporting people working from home”.

Royal Mail won a high court injunction in November preventing the first postal strike in a decade, which it said could have disrupted postal voting in the December general election.



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